A duke tries to free a poor woman from a bride auction, but they both have trouble letting go.
Marcus, the fifth Duke of Autenberry, has just woken up in jail in a small Scottish village after a night of debauchery. Alyse Bell is about to dissolve her marriage of convenience to her late father’s friend so they can both marry other people. When Alyse’s fiancé stands her up, her current husband uses a legal loophole to auction her off to the highest bidder in the town square. While Marcus watches the auctioneer extol Alyse’s virtues in a thick regional dialect—“She can work yer farm, run a ’ouse, and care fer bairns”—he thinks of how best to save the young woman from slavery. And the answer is that he can’t. So he buys her himself. Instead of a forced marriage, he offers her a job as housekeeper at Kilmarkie House on the Black Isle. It’s nowhere near London, where she wants to go, but at least she’ll get to see some dolphins. As the two strangers travel to the estate together, their close proximity puts them in danger of turning their fake marriage into a binding contract—or worse, true love. With a country setting and a hero with rough hands, this Cinderella story really emphasizes the cinders. Luckily, they’re hot. Alyse doesn’t dream of fancy balls and beautiful gowns; she dreams about having a choice about where she lives and what she does with her life. The author’s sly humor softens what could be a grim situation for the purchased bride and turns it into a grand adventure.
The down-to-earth duke is the highlight of this muddy, messy, and very romantic road trip through Scotland.